robertogreco + anne-marieslaughter   3

Work-Life Balance Needs an Update - The Atlantic
"How people think and talk about an issue matters. Every time people say “working mother” but don’t say “working father,” every time people talk about parental issues (or caregiving issues generally) as “women’s issues,”—together these small failures continually reinforce the assumption that it is up to women to raise children and care for elders, even though most people now accept that it is up to both women and men to earn a living. That assumption, in turn, enables male-female inequality to persist.

Another common idiom—that of “work-life balance”—does a disservice to women at the bottom of the income scale, implying that people have some control over this situation. The notion of “balance” summons an image of a see-saw or a scale, a stable equilibrium in which people have the right amounts of different things that they want. It is the ultimate expression of “having it all”—just enough of this and just enough of that.

The majority of American women who have caregiving obligations are persevering in the face of seemingly impossible conflicting pressures—how to get their jobs done and be at their children’s sports games and organize weekend activities and help with homework and take their mothers to the doctor and cook for or at least take dinner to a friend with cancer and and and. Or worse still, how to work two or three jobs to put food on the table and pay the rent and still have any time for children or parents at all?

Instead of balance, a better approach is to talk more simply and straightforwardly about making room for care, a concept I explore in my new book Unfinished Business. Begin from the proposition that we cannot survive, as individuals or as a nation, without caring for one another. George Halvorson, former head of Kaiser Permanente, recently wrote: “The biggest single public health deficit and failure in America today is the fact that almost no parents of newborn children have been told or taught that they can improve their child's learning abilities significantly by exercising their baby's brain in the first three years of life.” Caring for children properly, and valuing the unpaid and paid work of those who undertake this vital job, will determine America’s future competitiveness, security, equality, and the wellbeing of its citizens. And at the other end of life, who are we if we do not care for those who cared for us?

Making room for care is dependent on one thing: valuing it, economically. Yet instead of valuing care as the indispensable work that it is, society as a whole free rides on the labor of family caregivers, who are not compensated for their work. Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood, cites studies estimating a mother’s worth as somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000 a year, depending on whether the measure is the replacement value of each of the services she is expected to provide or what we could expect to have to pay one individual to provide a combination of those services. But none of those goods and services is ever counted in the U.S. GDP.

They could be. Plenty of economists have shown how. Bringing together much of this work, Riane Eisler is leading over 100 organizations in the Caring Economy Campaign, which has put together a set of Social Wealth Indicators specifically designed to track the value of caring for others and to measure where the U.S. stands on these measures versus other advanced industrial countries.

If society valued care, it would be accounted for in measurements of the economy and assessments of the country’s health and wealth. If society valued care, workplaces would adopt an entire set of new practices, from a right to request flexible work to the routine creation of work coverage plans for every worker, on the expectation that all workers must make room for caring for someone in their lives at some point in their lives. And if society valued care, the roles of teacher, lead parent, coach, nurse, therapist, or any other caring profession would have a degree of prestige and compensation that reflect the enormous importance of the work these people do.

“Balance” is a luxury, something only the very luckiest can ever attain. Equality—of the activities that are equally necessary for our survival and flourishing—is a better framework, as it demonstrates why care is something everybody needs to do and everybody needs access to. That’s not about balancing work and life. That’s about valuing all the activities that society needs for humans to flourish."
anne-marieslaughter  2015  work-lifebalance  caring  caringeconomy  economics  class  care  emotionallabor  gender  inequality  work  labor  health  mentalhealth  wellbeing  motherhood  women  society  values 
december 2015 by robertogreco
A Toxic Work World - The New York Times
"FOR many Americans, life has become all competition all the time. Workers across the socioeconomic spectrum, from hotel housekeepers to surgeons, have stories about toiling 12- to 16-hour days (often without overtime pay) and experiencing anxiety attacks and exhaustion. Public health experts have begun talking about stress as an epidemic.

The people who can compete and succeed in this culture are an ever-narrower slice of American society: largely young people who are healthy, and wealthy enough not to have to care for family members. An individual company can of course favor these individuals, as health insurers once did, and then pass them off to other businesses when they become parents or need to tend to their own parents. But this model of winning at all costs reinforces a distinctive American pathology of not making room for caregiving. The result: We hemorrhage talent and hollow out our society.

To begin with, we are losing women. America has unlocked the talent of its women in a way that few nations can match; girls are outpacing boys in high schools, universities and graduate schools and are now entering the work force at higher salaries. But the ranks of those women still thin significantly as they rise toward the top, from more than 50 percent at entry level to 10 to 20 percent in senior management. Far too many discover that what was once a manageable and enjoyable work-family balance can no longer be sustained — regardless of ambition, confidence or even a partner who shares tasks equally.

Every family’s situation is different; some women may be able to handle with ease conditions that don’t work for others. But many women who started out with all the ambition in the world find themselves in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs; they are shut out by the refusal of their bosses to make it possible for them to fit their family life and their work life together. In her book “Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home,” the sociologist Pamela Stone calls this a “forced choice.” “Denial of requests to work part time, layoffs or relocations,” she writes, will push even the most ambitious woman out of the work force."



"THE problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the “Mad Men” era, for “Leave It to Beaver” families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care — the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities don’t look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives.

Irene Padavic, a Florida State sociologist, Robin J. Ely, a Harvard Business School professor, and Erin Reid from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business were asked to conduct a detailed study of a midsize global consulting firm where top management thought they had a “gender problem.” The firm had a paucity of women at the highest levels — just 10 percent of partners were women, compared with nearly 40 percent of junior associates.

After careful study, Professors Padavic, Ely and Reid found that an equal number of men and women had left the firm in the preceding three years, a simple fact that contradicted management’s women, work and family story. Some of the men also left because of the long hours; others “suffered in silence or otherwise made do.” The firm’s key human resources problem was not gender, as management believed, but rather a culture of overwork."



"EVEN if men and women join forces to demand changes in the workplace, though, we cannot do this alone, as individuals trying to make our lives work and as workers and bosses trying to make room for care. Some other company can always keep prices down by demanding more, burning out its employees and casting them aside when they are done. To be fully competitive as a country, we are going to have to emulate other industrialized countries and build an infrastructure of care. We used to have one; it was called women at home. But with 57 percent of those women in the labor force, that infrastructure has crumbled and it’s not coming back.

To support care just as we support competition, we will need some combination of the following: high-quality and affordable child care and elder care; paid family and medical leave for women and men; a right to request part-time or flexible work; investment in early education comparable to our investment in elementary and secondary education; comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers; higher wages and training for paid caregivers; community support structures to allow elders to live at home longer; and reform of elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of a digital rather than an agricultural economy."



"Change in our individual workplaces and in our broader politics also depends on culture change: fundamental shifts in the way we think, talk and confer prestige. If we really valued care, we would not regard time out for caregiving — for your children, parents, spouse, sibling or any other member of your extended or constructed family — as a black hole on a résumé. We would see it as engaging in a socially, personally and professionally valuable activity. We would see men who lean out for care as role models just as much as women who lean in for work. We would think managing kids matters as much as managing money.

Impossible, right? Yet I grew up in a society where my mother set out little vases of cigarettes on the table at dinner parties, where blacks and whites had to use different bathrooms, and in which almost everyone claimed to be heterosexual. That seems a lifetime ago, but I’m not so old. Our world has changed over the past 50 years, vastly for the better from the point of view of African-Americans, the L.G.B.T. community and families who lost loved ones to lung cancer. Given the magnitude of that change, think about how much we can still do.

We can, all of us, stand up for care. Until we do, men and women will never be equal; not while both are responsible for providing cash but only women are responsible for providing care. And though individual Americans might win out in our current system, America as a whole will never be as competitive as it ought to be. If we do not act, over time our families and communities, the foundation of our flourishing, will wither.

The women’s movement has brought many of us the right to compete on equal terms; it’s time for all of us to claim an equal right to care."
work  stress  2015  anne-marieslaughter  labor  care  caregiving  society  us  agediscrimination  overwork  health  gender  discrimination  poverty  economics  irenepadavic  robinelyerinreid  workplace  competition 
september 2015 by robertogreco

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